It’s nice to be wanted.
It’s really nice to be wanted in a line of work where rejection can rule.
It’s especially nice to be wanted when it’s backed by funding ‘cos that means you can stop fighting to stay alive for a while and focus on what you get out of bed for in the first place.
So it was indeed especially nice when NHS Health & Justice NW confirmed last week that there was enough in my work from last year with older men in prison https://bigandscaryrunning.com/%EF%BF%BCputting-the-band-back-together/ to merit a contract extension and expansion of the work for another two years.
Another milestone and yes, a glass of something special might just have been cracked in the Mouncey household when that news broke.
While I’ve not exactly been down on the proverbial beach since the end of the first block of this work back in Feb, the re-start could be creaky in places. Much of the smoothness that is evident in a confident delivery comes from familiarity of patterns and trends that only comes from spending time with the people at the chalkface: There is a rhythm to the work and a rationale with what to rail against and what to roll with - especially so when working in an environment such as this. So I’m eager to get back on the bike and wiser with it – I hope.
Arguably the biggest lesson from the first round was how I look after me: Proactive and reactive professional self-care https://bigandscaryrunning.com/why-so-serious/
So I’ve made some changes.
Next in line is only working where I’m welcome and wanted because it’s no longer enough for there to be a need I can help with.
So I’ve come up with ways to test the level of welcome pre-start and given myself permission to walk if I find more mouth than trousers - AND got my funder to be OK with that. Oh the pre-start work is going to be so much fun from now on!
As to the rest of this world? Some things are different and some things remain:
More People Inside
We’re sending more people to prison earlier and for longer, we’re projected to keep doing so but are starting to hit ‘full’ now https://www.russellwebster.com/the-scale-of-the-prison-capacity-crisis/
More People Re-Offend
Nearly everyone currently inside will be released and more than half will be back inside in a year – a figure that has remained unchanged for decades (Prison Reform Trust).
Lockdown Lingers On
More than half of all people in prison are (still) in their cell for 22hrs a day – and that figure rises to ¾ at weekends (Prison Reform Trust The Bromley Briefings Jan 2023) https://www.russellwebster.com/chief-inspector-of-prisons-criticises/
Retain & Recruit
An exodus of experienced staff has meant a crash-recruitment drive: The current mix is still way down and way younger (and more female) than it has ever been – and there’s real rumblings https://www.crimeandjustice.org.uk/resources/68-too-late
More People Struggle
Nearly ¾ of people in prison report mental health problems, half of those entering prison are estimated to have a neurodivergent condition, drugs are a feature in over half of all prison sentences and the fastest growing part of the prison population is men over 60 (Prison Reform Trust).
Short Term Thinking
We’re on our 11th Secretary of State for Justice since 2010 and our 13th Minister Of State.
Every time there’s a change it’s time, energy and money spent on courtship/induction-new agenda and then off we go again – times 24.
And to cap it all in prison kitchens even chips are feeling the heat https://insidetime.org/youve-had-your-chips/
Behold my office, dear reader:
What to roll with?
What to rail against?
What should be the rhythm of the work?
All will become apparent, I suspect.
Beware: I Have Bias
This is not an objective piece of writing.
For the sake of transparency this is what you need to know:
- As an educated middle-aged white bloke with agency and economic means I recognise that I am operating at the least level of difficulty in this (my) society. (Thanks to author John Scalzi https://whatever.scalzi.com for that nugget).
- I’ve never served time and there is no history of prison service in my family.
- Writing and podcasting about my experiences is first and foremost a selfish act: It helps me make sense of ‘em. If other people are moved to consider their own stuff as a result of being drawn into mine then I’ve hit both my markers.
This is what you should know about what I think about crime-punishment:
- With very few exceptions prison should return men and women who have committed a crime back to society ready and able to contribute and participate as a paid-up member of the human race.
- With very few exceptions those people deserve that chance.
- Many parts of our justice system need wholesale reform. The challenge for people like me is how to make a meaningful contribution among the chaos and contradictions – and that’s a work in progress for most of us, I suspect.
Timeline RFYL CIC
You think it’s hard breaking out of prison? You want to try breaking in:
2012 First invitation to a Category C prison. Project pulled pre-start
2013 First short pilot delivered at a Cat D prison
2014-16 More testing – more pilots – still no ££
2016 RFYL Conception. Doors open–doors close-funding bids/rejected
2017 RFYL Community Interest Company formed. More rejections
2018 Doors open–close/bids etc: Getting boring now. Still no ££
2019 March: Second Proof Of Concept pilot HMP Stafford
2019 June: First corporate sponsorship Kebbell Homes
2019 Dec: First paid work secured HMP Wymott, Theraputic Community
2020 March: Covid19 pandemic hits - work stops as prisons enter lockdown
2020 June: Start online coaching supporting prison governors as prisons stay shut
2021 January: First funding for Covid19 response work HMP/YOI Brinsford
2021 March: 3 programs delivered in semi-lockdown HMP/YOI Brinsford
2021 Sept: Second corporate sponsor PwC Foundation
2021 Dec: Prisons revert to almost full lockdown as Omicron variant hits
2022 Feb: Start working in person with prison leadership groups
2022 March: NHS funding award to re-start in-prison work in NW
2022 Oct: In-prison work re-starts for older men at HMP Wymott
2023 July: Two year extension to NHS funding for expansion of in-prison work